Trying to find the right technical talent for your startup may feel like playing a rigged game.
In a competitive environment where large technology companies can outspend you for the best technical talent, it seems like startups are left with less qualified or inexperienced candidates.
Plus, in the rare chance when you do get to interview a stellar candidate, they either ghost you or ride out the interview process to the very end – only to decline your job offer for a “better fit.”
In this post, we explore the best ways to attract strong technical candidates and build a winning tech team (Hint: It’s not just about offering the highest salary).
Let’s jump in.
Table of Contents:
Tip 1: Write a Killer Job Description
The job description is the first thing most candidates see, so it’s important to get this right. Think of it as your way to sell the role and company.
Job descriptions are often long, and boring, and don’t give candidates a proper understanding of what the role entails.
So how do you catch their attention? Here are some tips:
- Make sure the description is accurate. This step takes place before you even start writing. Why so crucial? Candidates can tell if you’re being vague and don’t truly know what you’re looking for in an employee. It’s okay if you don’t have all the details figured out, but you should work with the relevant team members to determine what this person will do, who they will work with, what impact they’ll make in the company, and what skills they’ll need to succeed.
- Keep it short. 14 seconds. That’s how long most job seekers will spend on a job post before deciding whether or not to apply. So as you write your description, keep it concise and easy to scan.
- Get personal. Most job posts are written as a list of requirements, expectations, and necessary technical skills. Focus on describing the kind of person you’re looking for – include what they’d be doing and what skills they’ll need to succeed.
- Test different content. To create a more engaging job post, you could go beyond the usual written description. For example, work with the hiring manager to record a brief video of them talking about the role. You could also change the format of the description and write it as a Q&A style post.
In short, anything you can do to make the job description more engaging will help candidates get excited about the job.
Tip 2: Conduct Awesome Interviews
After the job description, interviews are the next way you’ll engage with a prospective employee.
Don’t forget that interviewing goes both ways. The candidate is scoping out your company just as much as you’re assessing them.
Here are 5 simple steps to make a good impression:
- Create an efficient interview process. Take the time to review your process and nix anything that’s not essential. For example, if you typically give engineering candidates a coding assessment, then make sure it only covers things that will be relevant to their role.
- Outline what the process will look like and share it with the interviewee. You can simply make a list of the interviews and assessments they’ll have to complete, how long each will take, and who they’ll meet with.
- Come prepared for the interview. Take the time to review the candidate’s resume and prepare your questions. An applicant will be able to tell if you’re seeing their resume for the first time which will send a message that you don’t actually care about the position.
- Keep your interviewing team updated. This can be as simple as sending everyone the list of interviews, who will be part of what interview, and an overview of the topics that should be covered in each interview.
- Stay in touch throughout the process. The best tech candidates are usually juggling interviews at several companies at a time. If you want to stay competitive, you’ll want to follow up within a few days of every interview and quickly get the next one scheduled.
If you present the company well during the interview process, it will go a long way when it comes to attracting strong prospective hires.
Tip 3: Demonstrate You Value the Candidate
It’s easy to view a candidate as merely a number especially when facing numerous applications and interviews.
But if you don’t take the time to make each one feel seen and appreciated, you’ll likely experience a higher amount of candidate drop-off in your interview process.
Use these tips to communicate you care about this individual:
- Be responsive. When a candidate reaches out, be sure to respond quickly. Leaving questions unanswered and emails ignored is one of the surest ways to lose a candidate.
- Send regular updates. There are numerous stages during the interview process so be sure to let them know where they are. For example, set up an automatic email to say you received their application, send calendar invites for interviews (with information about what to expect), and update them about the next steps each time they complete an interview.
- Give them your time. If a candidate is seriously considering your company, they may require extra time to decide. Offer to chat with them further or give them the chance to meet other team members. These less formal, informational interviews will help them get to know your company and make an informed decision.
- Avoid generic rejection emails. Instead, take the time to provide feedback. You don’t need to write a long message, but it’s worth letting the candidate know what they did well and give them an idea of why they weren’t chosen. Offering this kind of warm, personal feedback will leave candidates with a positive impression of your company.
Take these steps to communicate you care about a candidate and they’ll be far more likely to jump at the opportunity of working on your team. Even if they don’t get the job, they’ll still walk away with a positive impression.
Tip 4: Give Your Employees the Mic
One of the most authentic ways to attract strong candidates to your startup is to give them the opportunity to hear from your own employees.
After all, your employees already believe in the company and can authentically pitch it to candidates.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to record employee interviews and then share them on your website, social media, and recruiting emails.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- What makes our company unique?
- What’s the best part about working at our company?
- What gets you excited about the company mission?
- What’s one of your favorite perks/bonuses that our company offers?
- What are some ways you’ve been able to keep learning and growing since you joined the company?
Another great way to have your employees promote your company is to create a referral program and offer a placement reward to anyone whose referral gets hired. Your employees have large networks of their own. With the added incentive of a bonus, they’ll likely source some phenomenal hires.
Tip 5: Feature the Company Leadership
The best tech candidates will have a vested interest in your company’s leadership. After all, the leaders determine the company’s direction and are the people who mentor and train employees. They also have the ability to invest in their employees’ careers and open up doors in the future.
With that in mind, it’s worth promoting your company’s leadership. Note: This includes the founders as well as the technical leaders since both will have a huge impact on a tech candidate.
So what does this look like?
First off, your leaders could get on a podcast, speak at a conference or meetup, or conduct an interview.
In addition to these external opportunities, you could also create your own content. For example, if one of the leaders at your company is knowledgeable about a certain technical topic, then they could write an article and publish it on LinkedIn or the company blog. You could also conduct an interview with them and publish it as a video or Q&A style article.
In short, by making your startup’s leadership more visible, you will let potential candidates know that your company is a place where they can learn from some of the best leaders in tech.
Tip 6: Offer Competitive Compensation
Compensation is perhaps the most obvious way of attracting talent.
Depending on your startup’s financial position, you may not have the resources to offer salaries that compete with the industry. But you should still be aware of industry averages and do your best to fairly compensate your employees.
You’ll also want to be as transparent as possible about compensation. Ideally, try to share the salary range on your job description or during the first interview. This will ensure neither you nor your candidates waste time. No one wants to spend time interviewing for a role only to discover in the final stages that the salary doesn’t match their needs.
While annual salary is the most important aspect of the compensation package, you should also keep other forms of compensation in mind.
For instance, here are some additional options that will make your startup more attractive:
- Startup equity: This varies in importance from person to person, but most candidates who are interested in startups like having some kind of investment in their work.
- Employee benefits: This is a huge step when it comes to making your startup more attractive. The sooner you create a strong benefits package, the easier it will be to grow your team.
- Perks & Bonuses: Get creative here! You could offer bonuses when employees hit milestone anniversaries. You could also offer unique perks such as anniversary reward programs, gym memberships, remote work stipends, or unlimited PTO. Whatever perks you choose, the important thing is to ensure those perks are desirable to your employees.
Tip 7: Highlight the Importance of The Role
Many tech professionals who are looking for a new opportunity want to join a company where they can make an impact. They want to know their work matters.
The good news?
That’s one of the strengths of a startup. Unlike a large corporation, each new team member alters the team dynamic and contributes to the company mission.
Do your best to send the message that their work will make a difference. For instance:
- Add a blurb to the job description. Include details about the impact this individual will have on the team, the company mission, and the product.
- Bring it into the initial phone screen. Reiterate why the role is important and how the new team member will make a difference.
- Make a product video. You may already have a product video for sales purposes, but this one will be geared toward potential candidates and will get them excited about the product. Talk about what your team is building, what cool technologies you’re working with, who uses your product, how it helps people, and what problems it solves.
Overall, your goal is to help the candidate grasp why your company’s work matters and how they would contribute to the mission.
Tip 8: Emphasize Career Growth Potential
Most strong technical candidates will want to find a job where they’ll be stretched and challenged.
With that in mind, it’s worth showing candidates that your company encourages innovation, learning opportunities, and career growth.
Here are some ways you can help candidates feel confident that your startup is a great next career step:
- Encourage professional development. This could be as simple as hosting Lunch and Learns for the tech team or covering the cost of relevant training, certifications, or courses.
- Establish career tracks. If you haven’t built career tracks for your technical teams then it’s worth taking the time to do so. Be sure to ask your current employees for feedback as you build out the tracks. The main goal is to create pathways that will allow everyone to progress.
- Offer mentorship opportunities. Creating a mentorship program within your company is one of the easiest ways to offer a growth opportunity for future employees. Here are some ideas to get yours started.
As you put thought into the growth opportunities of your technical team, you’ll end up with more satisfied employees and impressed candidates.
Tip 9: Prove Your Startup’s Stability
Startups are often viewed as risky, which means some candidates will be concerned about stability.
Do your best to ease their nerves. For example:
- Talk market analysis. Has your team done an analysis to prove product-market fit? If so, that is a great way to show that the business is likely to succeed.
- Share future plans. Talking with candidates about the company’s future direction will prove that your leadership is forward-thinking and prepared to face upcoming challenges.
- Prove financial stability. If possible, share information about the last round of funding or when you expect to raise the next round. If the company is profitable, be sure to let candidates know.
As you have these conversations, keep in mind that it’s actually good if a candidate asks questions. Their concern means they’re taking the interview process seriously and potentially want to stick around long-term. If they end up joining your company, they’ll likely be a more dedicated team member since they did the hard work of getting all the facts before jumping on board.
These tactics can tip the scales in your favor when attracting great technical candidates. It’s unlikely that you can change your hiring process in a quarter, but each little step builds your recruiting culture to be a place where top candidates apply, stay engaged, and accept positions.
You simply have to take one step at a time. Start by reworking one of your job descriptions so it’s bound to capture the attention of even the most talented candidates.
Then move on from there and enjoy the process!